Document Type

Journal Article




School of Natural Sciences




This article was originally published as: Tuya, F., & Duarte, P. (2012). Role of food availability in the bathymetric distribution of the starfish" Marthasterias glacialis"(Lamk.) on reefs of northern Portugal. Scientia Marina 76(1) 9-15. Original article available here


We examined whether the abundance and size of the starfish Marthasterias glacialis (Lamk.) exhibit a depth-dependent partitioning on subtidal reefs. We tested the hypothesis that differences in food availability can result in habitat partitioning along a depth gradient. The abundance and size of M. glacialis was registered at 4 depth strata: 0-4 m, 4-8 m, 8-12 m, and >12 m; we also recorded the number of food items that they were preying on. The abundance and size of M. glacialis decreased with depth. Mussels (Mytilus galloprivincialis) were the most preyed food item across all depth strata, followed by gastropods, sea urchins and barnacles; M. glacialis also consumed a significantly larger amount of mussels in feeding experiments compared with sea urchins and gastropods. The abundance of M. galloprivincialis beds decreased with depth. The clear link between the decrease in abundance and size of M. glacialis with depth and the decay of the most consumed prey (mussels) suggest that food availability may play an important role in the vertical distribution of this starfish, though wave-associated turbulence in the first few metres of the subtidal could also limit the abundance of M. glacialis.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


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